Breaking The Surface With Artist Jo Beale

Breaking The Surface With Artist Jo Beale

By Anna Horsnell


In exclusive conversations with the artists from The Prow Gallery, Breaking the Surface delves deeper into the personalities and passion behind the artistry. Our sincere thanks go out to each artist for graciously sharing from the heart. 

Jo Beale


There is a quality of raw honesty in your work that forgoes prettiness to express perhaps a more intimate understanding. How does it feel to share this very personal exploration?

I am compelled to explore. I trace an impulse to live through the action of my physical body. I make lines or simply areas roughly creating shape. The act of drawing and painting is a tool to investigate, explore where I am in the world around me. When I act, I see on the canvas  something that guides.  I don’t think I am “expressing”. I’m not aware of a preconceived intention. Though the work made by me is personal, my objective is to make, present, to participate, using the language of visual art to connect to the conversation that art is.

Line plays an integral part of your style. What advantages do you find in drawing versus working more exclusively with paint alone?

I use line to begin an approach to the blank canvas, making a connection through my body to a work. All my work is drawing no matter the medium - charcoal, pastel, oil paint, gouache. Line or edges of roughly scratched in shapes that hold space for something not known and yet to be revealed. Mixing mediums is a way to break away from what I think I know. It’s a trick I play to avoid falling into repetition. I move towards something new to me, find something new to understand.

How have you seen your work change and develop over the years? What or who has influenced you the most?

I see a step-by-step growth in my work. I describe my physical experience in the ongoing “journal series“. This work about self awareness enables me to proceed. I paint the environment that surrounds me, landscapes as an example, as though it is physically part of me. I see in these works where I am.

Having also worked in The Prow Gallery, you not only have a unique perspective as an artist yourself, but you also span that space between the represented artists and the art lover. What advantages does this provide all involved?

I worked at The Prow Gallery for a few months at the very beginning of its establishment. I had my own gallery for twelve years before that. The experience of being a producing artist while meeting the viewing public directly in a commercial setting has been extremely rewarding. Art when it is seen by other people completes a cycle, allowing an artwork to become itself. I, as an artist, gained a feeling of comfortable detachment from this as well as a freedom to continue working. I was able to knowledgeably guide viewers in the reading of an artwork. I provided information about technique, medium, historical references, and borrowing. I discussed the challenges or the breaking of conventions. I could offer to the viewer ideas about a way of seeing that a particular artist may be exploring.

Many artists express themselves through multiple mediums or artforms such as writing or music. How does your creativity reveal itself in other aspects of your life?

As a visual artist, I do see concerns and concepts that have to do with a similar conversation in art forms such as literature and music. I take time to listen to music and I read. I write about the work I make, describing it for myself,  in order to see a different perspective.

As an artist, how would you say you see the world around you or approach life perhaps differently than others?

I don’t know if I see or approach the world differently than others. I do think that I see everything through an art language. It’s a way to understand. Perhaps this causes some difficulty with all the fuss and the detail of life, but I think everyone probably struggles in a similar way.

What is your biggest challenge as an artist?

I think my greatest challenge as an artist is that I sometimes reject what I’ve done as something I don’t want. It is usually something that is new and I don’t recognize it right away. I am learning to pause when this happens and deal with the painful trouble self doubt causes.

What is the most valuable tool or essential condition for a good day in your studio?

When I have a lengthy block of time and I’ve taken all precautions possible not to be interrupted, I begin to work. I expect to work every day. I don’t distract myself by preparing. I don’t have to be ready; I just start drawing. My surroundings only need to be quiet, no people and no music.

What comment or opinion of your artwork has most touched you in your career?

I always appreciate comments and opinions from people about my work. I am not changed much by anything they say. The most rewarding thing is to see someone who is genuinely looking, and then to receive financial payment for work brings real validation!

How does Jo Beale, the artist, relax and rejuvenate once she leaves the studio?

When I leave the studio, I can rest and just enjoy the feeling of release. I make the decision that it is fine to do nothing.

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